Business, Finance & Economics

Australia's Gold Coast wins right to host 2018 Commonwealth Games, but what of the vice in paradise? (VIDEO)


Bikini clad participants parade along Surfers Paradise Beach in Gold Coast City on October 2, 2011 in an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the longest bikini parade.


Murray Rix

Australia's Gold Coast will host the Commonwealth Games in 2018, and despite an unprecedented crime wave, a drug problem and soaring unemployment hopes to draw better press than New Delhi did last year.

The beach-side city in the "sunshine state" of Queensland beat out an "aspirational bid" by Sri Lanka's tsunami-devastated port of Hambantota in a vote by the Commonwealth Games Federation general assembly, being held in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis.

"See you in Gold Coast in 2018!!!" the federation said on Twitter

The Gold Coast, much like Miami in Florida, is popular with overseas tourists owing to its pristine white sand beaches, year-round warm weather, theme parks and hotel infrastructure. (It even has a beach named Miami.)

Situated in the southeast of Queensland state, which is still rebuilding after devastating floods almost a year ago, it is Australia's sixth-biggest city, with a population of 591,000 people, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, the Gold Coast's unemployment rate of 6.4 percent hovers a half percentage point above that of the state average of 5.8 percent — and well above the resources rich state of Western Australian, with an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.

In recent years, the Gold Coast has also seen a spike in violent crime, with a highly transient population and large illicit drug industry being primarily blamed.

The Queensland Police Union told the ABC News that the execution-style shooting of a police officer earlier this year had cemented the Gold Coast's position as Australia's crime capital. 

Since that comment was made, much money has been spent on adding police numbers on the Gold Coast, better equipping those already there (including with a Bell 206L LongRanger helicopter fitted with a forward-looking infrared camera) and generally reassuring residents and potential visitors that while there is is trouble in paradise, it's more or less under control.   

It seemed enough to convince the 43 of the 70 nations and territories represented at the St Kitts and Nevis assembly. Only 27 voted for Sri Lanka.

Hambantota, devastated in the 2004 tsunami, had hoped to use the Games to help with reconstruction.

Meantime, it will be the fifth time Australia has hosted the Commonwealth Games.

Julia Gillard, in Honolulu for this weekend's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders' meeting, took time out to reassure the Games Federation that: "Each time we've hosted the Commonwealth Games we've done a fantastic job. Australia is great at hosting international sporting events."

Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan, while admitting that the Gold Coast "has not been in the fast lane of a resources boom," said that winning the right to host the Games would bring jobs and investment.

Indeed, the Queensland state government estimates that the 2018 Commonwealth Games could boost the economy by $2.1 billion and generate up to 30,000 full time-equivalent jobs, Bloomberg reported.

Besides, Channel Nine quoted Swan as saying Saturday, "it's going to showcase Australia to the world." 

However, as New Delhi found out, when it comes to being in the world spotlight, winning isn't everything. 

The 2010 Games in Delhi — supposed to showcase India's status as an emerging global power — instead shone a light on India's capacity for corruption, shoddy construction work and budget overruns.

(GlobalPost reports: Commonwealth Games mar New Delhi's image)

The BBC cited an Indian government report in August as saying that there were "serious irregularities with bidding and contracts, and that the seven years organizers had to prepare were wasted." 

The Gold Coast's seven years start now, and it seems the clock is ticking.